Richard C. Statham
Senior Pastor, Salem Baptist, McDonough
“Okay Honey, it’s time to make a decision.”
I often make this statement to my wife while placing our order at one of our favorite restaurants. She has many wonderful strengths, but choosing from a familiar menu is not one of them.
Notice I said, “familiar.” We are creatures of habit and therefore frequent the same local restaurants. I dare say that both of us, in fact our entire family, can near word-for-word quote the vast menu at our favorite restaurant. We have both helped to explain to a new server how they can “key-in” the order so that the kitchen staff will know exactly how we would like it prepared. Sometimes I will say, “Just tell them it’s for Pastor Rick and they will know what to do.”
My wife is well-acquainted with the menu, in fact she often speaks with amazement to our friends of how good all the food choices are, yet she struggles to make a decision as to which specific thing she is going to commit to eat! If this doesn’t describe you, surely you know someone it does.
I believe our culture is filled with people for whom the same struggle applies in regard to spiritual things – specifically in their response to Jesus. Following Jesus is a life-changing adventure and all are invited to “follow Him” but few, it seems, will go all the way.
All four Gospel writers record Jesus calling others to “follow” Him. Mark wastes no time getting to the point when Jesus calls individuals to fully commit their lives to Him. In fact, we might well say Mark immediately confronts his readers with a call to a genuine sincere relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Mark is written with a sense of urgency. In fact, the word translated in the New International Version “immediately” (eutheos) in some form is used over 40 times in the Gospel.
After a brief introduction Mark describes Jesus traveling through the region of Galilee, calling people to “repent and believe the good news!” He allows us to envision Jesus preaching to the multitude (all) yet gives the reader the opportunity to look through Jesus’ eyes as He sees and calls Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John to “follow” Him.
The text says they “immediately left” and followed Him. If one is not careful he/she will envision Jesus approaching four men for the very first time and saying “Hey guys, I’m Jesus. Though you’ve never met me before I’m calling you to lay aside everything and follow me for the rest of your life – in fact, the rest of eternity.” The reality is that this was not the case.
A careful study of all four Gospels will clearly reveal that these four men were already well “acquainted” with Jesus. In fact they, like many to whom Jesus preached, were “amazed” by His teaching and the miracles He performed. Likewise, many in our culture today are acquainted with Jesus – they have heard of Him and know He “saves sinners.” Greater still, many today will recognize and admit that Jesus has done an amazing work in the life of someone they know.
For example – recently my daughter was in the hospital following an emergency C-section delivery of our granddaughter who had an ischemic stroke at birth. Once, I walked into her hospital room to find a nurse at her bedside holding my daughter’s hand. The nurse was crying.
I asked, “Is something wrong?”
The nurse looked at me and said, “I am amazed at your daughter’s faith [in Jesus]! I want to be like her.” We then talked about what following Jesus means.
The sad fact is many in our culture today are not willing to fully follow Jesus. We must recognize that many people who are acquainted with Jesus in this life will spend forever in hell separated from Him. Simply being acquainted with Jesus is not enough.
Hell will also be filled with people who were “amazed” by Jesus Christ and his miracle-working power. Being amazed by Jesus is not enough.
The focal text of our study indicates to me that Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John moved beyond mere acquaintance and amazement to the point of complete abandonment. The text says, “at once (eutheos) they left their nets and followed him” and “without delay (eutheos) He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.”
There comes the time when a decision must be made – “What am I going to do with Jesus of Nazareth?” John 6:66 is a verse that should break the heart of every Christian – “… from this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him (Jesus).” Following Jesus involves a sincere, genuine willingness to “let go” of many things and follow Him in complete abandonment.
Jesus calls us to “repent and believe.” To repent is to turn from one direction to another. To believe (pisteuo) means more than mere intellectual acknowledgement. In addition to the intellect the will must respond in practical application. Like the disciples who “left” everything and followed Jesus we must come to that point where we declare “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”
Friend, it is time to make a decision.
Questions to consider:
Would you agree many non-Christian people in our culture are acquainted with Jesus Christ? If so, give some examples of how you know this to be true.
Would you agree many non-Christian people are still amazed by Jesus teaching? If so, give some examples of how you know this to be true.
What does it mean to be abandoned unto Jesus Christ? Are you? Give an example of someone you know who gives evidence of this in his or her life. What needs to change in your life so that others may see Jesus in and through you?